Caine’s youthful exuberance
THIS IS a film about loss — of talent, beauty, love, dignity, desire and companionship. But don’t let that put you off. For Youth is also utterly riveting, a Fellini-esque homage set in an Alpine hotel-spa where a youthful spring has sprung and the hills — literally (believe me!) — come alive to the sound of music.
Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel play two old friends approaching 80 and lamenting their lost youth. Film director Keitel is on a quest to rediscover his past through making one last ‘‘legacy’’ picture, while composer Caine seems to be suppressing his memories.
The former believes that ‘‘emotions are all we have’’; his melancholic companion cannot bear to show them. And when a Buckingham Palace courtier pleads with Caine to conduct his most famous composition in return for a knighthood, he is forced to confront that emotional blockage.
Added to this mix are Caine’s daughter— a wonderful performance from Rachel Weisz — a Johnny Depp-like film icon played by Paul Dano (even better here than he is in the BBC’s War and Peace) and an extraordinary cameo from Jane Fonda. And, in between, we get Miss Universe, Paloma Faith and Diego Maradona. Really.
The hotel becomes an otherworldly, sometimes prison-like, retreat where guests are seduced into believing their youth can be restored if only for a fleeting moment. Maradona can display his God-given talents, Fonda can act everyone off the screen, Keitel can encounter his past cinematic glories, and Caine can rekindle his passion.
Inevitably, in a film about trying not to grow old, sex is everywhere, even down to the phallic-shaped towels that appear in every room. And yet Italian director Paolo Sorrentino is never coarse.
Quite the opposite; his second English-language film is frequently witty and ravishing to look at, full of immaculately-detailed scenes that linger long in the memory, and with performances that never falter, especially Caine’s languid, haunted maestro. Just as impressive is the genuinely moving score by David Lang.
This is an eloquent, eccentric meditation on what ageing feels like — for old people who refuse to confront the inevitable and younger ones who don’t realise how little time they have.
Good conduct: Michael Caine is rhapsodic